Can you afford a career change?

3 Minute Read | Author: Hannah Tattersall

If you’re serious about quitting your current trajectory for a career in a new industry, look carefully before you leap.

These days, it’s almost inevitable that we will have more than one career. Gone is the time when people stayed in one stable job their whole working lives. Perhaps it’s partly thanks to Oprah and her mantra to “live your best life”, but today’s folk seem intent on finding enjoyment in their working lives rather than sticking to the daily grind.

More than a million Australian workers change jobs each year, and around 600,000 of those workers change the industry they work in, writes Committee for Economic Development of Australia chief economist Nathan Taylor in a CEDA report titled Australia’s future workforce?

Seek data released in March 2017 also shows that 57 per cent of Australians have made a career change, and 19 per cent did so in the last twelve months.

You can decide at any age that you're ready for a change, but often it’s a physical feeling that prompts people to change careers. It could be in the form of restlessness, fatigue or burnout. You know it’s what you want, but before jumping into a new career, there are things to consider.


Pay expectations

It’s a good idea to find out the salary expectations of your new career before you transition. That’s what salary calculators and sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn are for. Don’t expect to earn the same as you do in your current role straight away.  If you start from scratch again, it could be a good five years before you reach your current salary.

Talking to an accountant or financial adviser will help you understand clearly – and without emotion – the financial requirements of a career transition. Most will recommend having some savings to see you through. Another option might be to take out a loan: it’s a good idea to adjust your spending to compensate for a period where you might be studying, looking for work or earning less.

Leadership and culture change coach Jacqui Whiteford says that first it’s important to look at why you want to change careers.I'm all for people doing what they love, having a purpose in life and being fulfilled,” she says. “But it’s important to be really clear on the numbers. Can you financially afford it? You've got to be realistic. It's great to live with purpose, but if you're living out of your car you're not living with purpose.”


The cost of a new qualification

In order to switch industries, you need to know whether you're qualified to do what you want to do. Or, if you’re not, what that qualification looks like. “If you said, ‘I want to be a landscaper’, then you've got to go and do three or four years as a tradie and go through TAFE at a minimum wage. If you’ve got a family, I don’t think so,” says Whiteford.

She says it’s important for people to ask themselves why they want the change. If it’s the outdoors they love, perhaps instead of becoming a landscaper they can make time to spend more time in the garden or hiking on the weekend. “What other options are there? Look at the bigger picture of what it is that you really love,” says Whiteford.


Save, save, save

Once you’ve done some soul searching, career research and run the numbers, if you really want to switch careers, it’s time to buckle down and save. Think about what you spend money on – dinner and drinks, takeaway coffees, pedicures, overseas holidays – and work out where you can cut back. We all waste money on things we don’t really need, and now is the perfect time to look at ways to save.

Remember, a few dollars here, a few dollars there can add up to a sweet sum of savings – not to mention a satisfying and potentially lucrative new career.